Updated at 2:15 p.m. ET on 2019-02-24
Bangladesh commandos shot and killed a man who allegedly attempted to hijack a Dhaka flight bound for Dubai Sunday afternoon while all passengers and crew were rescued unharmed, an army commander told reporters shortly after the incident.
Biman Airlines flight BG 147, a Boeing 737-800 carrying 148 passengers and crew, made an emergency landing at about 5:30 p.m. at Shah Amanat International Airport in Chittagong where elite commandos stormed the plane and freed the hostages.
A passenger told BenarNews that he and others began to pray after they heard shots, he said, and the plane began tilting from side to side before landing at the airport.
“The armed man had a pistol. He made the cabin crew hostages,” Maj. Gen. S.M. Matiur Rahman, the commanding officer in Chittagong, told reporters. When our preparation was ready, we asked him to surrender. He rejected our call and then we started the operation.”
The military takeover of the Bangladesh national airline jet ended in eight minutes, he said.
“He was injured inside the plane and died after we took him out,” Rahman said, identifying the suspect as a Bangladeshi who told the pilot his name was Mahadi.
Before beginning the operation, negotiators began a conversation with the hijacker and were able to get him to release the cabin crew, Rahman said, adding he made two demands.
“He wanted to talk to the prime minister, and to his wife. We assured him that his demands would be met,” Rahman said.
Earlier, officials said they believed the man had a bomb strapped to his chest, but that report proved false. Civil Aviation Authority Chairman Air Vice Marshal Naim Hassan told reporters in Dhaka the hijacker looked mentally imbalanced.
Osman Goni, a Bangladeshi on the flight, described the lone attacker as being in his 30s.
“Around 15 to 17 minutes after takeoff, a man carrying a small bag ran from rear seat of the flight. He told us ‘be seated. None of you try to stand up from your seats,’” Goni told BenarNews.
“He then went to the pilot and sat beside him. We heard the sound of two to three shots. Then the plane tilted to one side and then the other side. We all started praying to Allah,” he said.
“He was repeatedly smoking. We could only see smoke in the cockpit.”
After the plane landed, Goni said he and the other passengers quickly left through the emergency exit.
The attempted hijacking is the second in Bangladesh history and the first in more than four decades, according to government officials.
On Sept. 28, 1977, members of the Japanese Red Army (JRA) hijacked a flight from Mumbai and ordered it flown to Dhaka where they took passengers and crew hostage while demanding ransom and the release of nine JRA members from prison, according to media reports. After receiving the ransom and six of the prisoners, the hijackers released most of the hostages before fleeing the country. The final hostages were freed in Algeria.